2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 4, 2018

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class goes to excess--the right kinds of excess--to preserve its best-of status.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class doesn’t know a body style or powertrain it doesn’t like.

The E-Class lineup now counts sedans and wagons, and coupes and convertibles. It has expanded to include turbocharged 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder vehicles, AMGs and non-AMGs, with rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. It tries so hard to please anyone and everyone.

And it does.

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It earns an overall score of 8.3 on our rating scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 E-Class starts to rack up points with handsome profiles on all its shapes. The short-trunk, long-hood proportions correct past grievances. The E-Class looks distinct-ish from the C-Class and S-Class, and hasn’t lost a bit of the beef or bulk that lets it shoulder some of its rivals aside. Ascend into AMG heights, and the bodies get lower, the trim darker, the wheels bigger, the badges more numerous. The cabin’s an effusive place banded with foot-wide high-resolution displays and glossy wood or metallic trim (or both) and a suave set of round air vents. The screens depend on a futzy knob/pad controller on the console, but a more friendly Android or Apple interface pops up when you plug in.

Performance comes from gasoline, no more of the electric or diesel sideshows. The base 241-hp turbo-4 provides the E300 with 6-second oomph and available all-wheel drive; we recommend the air dampers for their all-around talent. E400 Benzes sport a 329-hp twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive. Drive modes and adaptive suspensions and tunable steering give all these E-Class variants a confident, but never abrasive, set of road manners.

You want abrasive? Take an AMG E43 or E 63 S for a spin, and roll it into Sport+ mode. The shifts bang home, the twin-turbos light with a hissing fury, the AWD system shuffles power to the rear--it’s your problem now, guy--and the entire car gels into something that nothing the size of an E-Class should be able to become. At more than 4,000 pounds and 190-plus inches long, the AMG Es are a rollicking reminder that today’s Mercedes cars often perform better, much better, than the old Bavarian benchmark brands.

Bigger inside, divinely useful as a wagon, trunk-hampered as a Cabriolet, the E-Class offers up lush cabinetry on pricey models and ladles full of transistors in the search for safety. It’s a perfect crash-tester, with leading Level 2 semi-autonomous driving capability that lets it changes lanes for itself and swerve out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Other features we want include the in-car fragrance dispenser, for a few hundred dollars; the 64-color ambient lighting, free on most models; and for more than $6,000 the Burmester sound system, with its crystal clear sound and carved-metal speaker grilles.

8

2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Styling

The 2018 E-Class drapes lovely sheet metal over a cabin that succeeds through excess.

The E-Class could easily have backed off on dramatic styling change. It hasn't. It's embraced the long-nose, short-deck sweep that's recast the C-Class and S-Class as the most stylish cars in their respective classes.

We're giving it an 8 for styling, with points for both the exterior and interior, and an extra for either the lavish dash or the subtle roofline, take your pick. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The family now includes wagons, coupes, and cabriolets as well as sedans, all of them attractive in their own right. On the sedans, the silhouette remains the same regardless of drivetrain. There's a tapered shoulder line that pulls down toward the rear wheels, a carefully draped roofline that flows into the abbreviated rear end. At the back, LED taillights have a diffused pattern dubbed by Benz as a "stardust" effect. It's not as complex as Rolls-Royce's starlight roof, with its thousands of pinpoints of LED light, but it's a charming detail, one of dozens that set this generation of Mercedes cars well apart from those in the past.

Coupes and cabriolets lose a pair of doors and some ride height. The idea’s the same, but on these models, the front and rear windows tuck into the body framelessly. The span of glass behind the door is so large, designers had to adopt a thin mini-pillar that cuts the rear side windows into two-third and one-third segments. It’s not beautiful, but in total the coupe and cabriolet design is.

The effusive design cues carry into the cabin. The E-Class interior is no longer bound by big bands of wood and studded by banks of buttons. It's swept up into a rhythm of textures, from open-pore woods to metallic weaves, that rise and ebb from the door panels toward a bombe chest of a center console. It's all capped in stitched leather and warmed by 64 shades of ambient lighting from prom-night purple to old-money white.

On less expensive sedans, a pair of conventional gauges faces the driver, next to a 12.3-inch center display. On most other models, a second 12.3-inch display takes the place of gauges, as the E-Class doubles down on those wide-aspect screens. The right high-tech mood set, the E-Class fills its cabin with the soft glow of electronica--while it strands some information behind the steering wheel, no matter how the wheel is positioned. With information crammed in the corners of the display, it's as if the car would be better off without a steering wheel at all.

The cockpit's receptive to fingertip control. Below the right-side screen, thin rows of climate-control switches sit ahead of the touchpuck that controls the infotainment system. The E's steering wheel also has touch surfaces for swipe-and-tap operation.

Mostly, though, it wants to be admired by the other senses. The leathers are more vividly colored, the sound system speakers perforated for aural and textural thrills. The S-Class set a high-water mark for all of Mercedes when it comes to interior style, and this car has copy-pasted the look to great effect. If you still fall back on the "E-Class is a German taxi" critique, you probably haven't been in one in this century.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Performance

The 2018 E-Class spins through personalities like a roulette wheel, from docile E300 to frenetic AMG E 63 S.

In its first model year the E-Class sported a turbo-4 engine, a 9-speed automatic, and rear- or all-wheel drive.

Now the family’s fleshed out with E400 twin-turbo V-6 variants, E43 AMGs that amp up that arrangement with more boost, and delicious V-8-powered E63 S cars with nearly as much raw musclecar power as a Hellcat.

We give the 2018 E-Class a score of 8 for performance. Its range of ride and handling is exceptional, while the powertrains in popular models deliver effortless acceleration. If we broke out AMG models separately, the E43 and E63 S would be nearly perfect here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 E300

The base E300 Mercedes sedan sports a 2.0-liter turbo-4. It sends 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque to the rear or to all four wheels through a 9-speed automatic. Worried about its ability to propel a 4,000-pound sedan? No need. The responsive drivetrain paddles through its gears with a strong surge of power from a torque peak down at 1,300 rpm. It doesn’t rummage much through all those ratios, and in its lightest trim, can run to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds on its way to a 130-mph top end. It’s a tick slower with all-wheel drive, which splits power 45/55 front to rear and adds a couple of hundred pounds. From an all-season perspective, the AWD model’s a no-brainer.

As for ride and handling, the E300 sedan connects to the road through a multi-link independent suspension, in base or sport state of tune, assisted by dual-mode or by adaptive air dampers. Wheel sizes for the all-season tires range from 17 to 20 inches.

The air dampers are a worthwhile upgrade. The system has multiple air chambers and can inflate and deflate those chambers continuously to provide a very smooth, very controlled ride. They also lower the car at speed for better gas mileage, or raise it for better ground clearance. They combine with a set of driving modes, from comfort to Sport+, that can fine-tune the steering, suspension, transmission, and throttle.

All those systems knit together into an exceedingly adaptable vehicle, one that’s good at carousing through Portugal’s winding back roads and coursing down the Bay Area’s foul stretches of the 101. We’d leave it in Sport mode for a well-controlled ride that’s not jittery or nervous as it can seem in Sport+. In Sport the E-Class has assertive manners and reasonably gentle damping. In comfort mode it waddles its way around with lots of suspension travel and languid steering.

Mercedes E400 coupe and cabriolet  

We’ve driven the E400 drivetrain in two-door form. It’s a smart setup that gives coupes and convertibles a distinctive driving feel, though the setup is shared with the sedan and wagon.

The Mercedes E400 is a grand-touring two-door with few compromises. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 develops 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, which drops 0-60 mph times of 5.5 seconds (in RWD form; AWD launches better, and hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds). The E400 feels quicker than that. Lag is almost nonexistent since peak torque arrives at 1,600 rpm. The 9-speed pulls off quick and extremely smooth shifts in every drive mode. It’s an accessible but brisk drivetrain that’s quiet and refined.

The coupe and convertible have a slightly lower ride height than the sedan, and also offer air springs and adaptive dampers. The money’s well spent: again here, the base car’s ordinary handling opens to a much wider range of possibilities with the air add-ons. Stable and poised in comfort mode, it begs for Sport mode on winding roads and on-ramps. Sport+ is a bit too brittle for everyday driving, and isn’t worth the agita.

The Mercedes-AMG E43

If you’re shopping for more power, the E43 sedan offers a half-step to the heavens.

We’ll leave longer impressions over at our sister site Motor Authority, which drove the Mercedes E43 sedan in an extensive first drive. A sketch of the highlights? We’d start with the 396-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6. With 384 lb-ft of torque, it couples to a high-strength 9-speed that rifles off shifts like a racing gearbox. It’ll vault the car to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, hit 155 mph, and will do so with a more pronounced 39/61 power bias to the rear.

It never lacks for power, and shifts come off seamless unless the drive-mode selector spins into Sport+, where lightning-quick throttle and abrupt shifts are the order of the day. It holds a gear through tight esses, or can be put in manual-shift mode by a console-mounted button. Sport mode, or better yet individual mode, lets the driver alleviate some dialed-in weight that leaves Sport+ steering with an unsettled feel.

Ride quality is very firm, but comfortable enough thanks to isolated front and rear suspensions. The E43 generates a twin-turbo soundtrack that’s a bit more graunchy V-6 than we might like.

Peak power: the AMG E63 S

Wrapped in its big wagon or sedan body, the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S can easily be confused for a hormone-addled teenager instead of the suited executive it caters to.

Take the idea of the E43 and plug in more go-fast parts. Start under the hood, rip out the V-6 and throw down a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8 with 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. Fit a beefier 9-speed automatic and give the AWD system the ability to move all its power to the rear end, even let it get into a full drift. Just about everything in the driving character of the E 63 S can be tailored to the maturity level of the driver, which is both great and frightening. Sixty mph happens in 3.3 seconds, and it rushes up on 180 mph without much drama.

It’s both a world-class cruiser and a big bruiser. The hefty E 63 S can flick off corner apexes thanks to a taut suspension with four links in front and a multi-link rear with more bracing and stabilizer bars crafted as thick tubes. The brakes are nearly 16 inches across in front, and carbon-ceramics are an option. The Pirelli P Zero tires wrap 20-inch wheels in kamikaze form, ready to give up chunks of themselves as the driver spins the E 63 S through three modes of stability control, each one more permissive than the last.

This is a car built for the deep knee bends the Nurburgring can deliver, but it’s docile as can be on American public roads, thanks to those air springs and adaptive dampers on loan from the S-Class.

But it’s never far from its peak. Press deeply on the right pedal, listen to the V-8 build up a frantic howl, unlock the brakes, and the E 63 S cauterizes the road with relentless power and grip.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Comfort & Quality

With the 2018 E-Class, Mercedes-Benz cuts dashing figures that don’t cut corners for space or quality.

With gains in length, width, and wheelbase in this generation, the 2018 Mercedes E-Class doles out lots of adult-sized space to go with its stiff adult-sized sticker prices.*

*Your two-door experience will vary.

Based on our time spent in all the different E-Classes, we come up with a quality score of 9. Sedans and wagons have excellent front and rear seat space, and good trunk space which turns into excellent cargo space in wagons. The two-doors? They’re comfortable enough for four, but convertibles predictably have the least shoulder and luggage space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Sedans and wagons

We bias our scores toward the most popular body styles, which means the sedan and wagon. In this generation, those models have grown 1.7 inches longer than in the previous model, and the wheelbase has been stretched by 2.6 inches, to 115.7 inches in all.

Behind the wheel, the E-Class offers up a bit extra around the knees and in head room. Multi-adjustable seats can be cooled and heated and massaged, or traded up for serious, heavily bolstered chairs in AMG editions. Mercedes sells heat control not just for the seats, by the way: the console and armrests get warmed along with the steering wheel, so there’s little excuse for cold appendages.

The E-Class hasn’t lacked for rear-seat space in a dog’s age. This time, engineers have carved out a little more, despite a lower rear roofline. The three-piece bench seat in sedans splits and folds to boost trunk space, which checks in at a middling 13.1 cubic feet. It also sports a fold-down armrest that can hold a tablet or a couple of bottles, a nod to its chauffeured role in many world markets.

For serious space, only the wagon will do. Wagons have a standard third-row pair of seats. They fold out of, and back into, the cargo floor and face toward the rear. With them stowed, the E-Wagon has 35 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seat.

Coupes and cabriolets

Previous versions of the E-Class coupe were based on the smaller C-Class sedan. In this generation, the E400 Coupe and Cabriolet share E-Class sedan architecture.

The numbers on the spec sheet tally a 113.1-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 190 inches, some 4.8 inches longer in all than the prior two-doors. Wider and lower, too, the latest E-Class two doors have a more stylish stance and a lower center of gravity.

The back seat is more flexible, too. The cabin can hold four adults passengers without too much complaint, though rear seat leg room is down 7 inches from the sedan and wagon. My six-foot frame fit under the cabriolet roof with an inch to spare in the back seat, and with serviceable knee room.

Admittedly, that’s an edge user case for these luxurious two-doors. Most of the time, they’ll see use as personal coupes and weekend tourers, which makes tolerable the 9.5 cubic feet of trunk space with the top in the up position. Coupes only fare a half a cubic foot better, if you’re curious.

E-Class quality

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the dramatic upgrades to the appearance, feel, and fit of the E-Class cabins.

Like the C- and S-Class cars before it, the most recent E-Class has given in to its feelings. The starker, less warm cockpits of Mercedes’ past have been tossed on some recycling pile. In the latest E-Class, sensual shapes can wear leather and wood and metal in bright flourishes. Over the top? Sure, in some combinations. Turn the ambient lights to purple in white-leather cars with banded wood trim, and the E-Class veers a little in the “Miami Vice” direction. In most combinations it stuns, and makes the latest generation of BMWs and Jaguars look dowdy.

That said, the base E-Class has lots of sound deadening but could use more. We’ll have all the AMG-crafted noises Mercedes cares to give us, but the occasionally brusque noises that erupt from the 4-cylinder engine can sound cheap.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Safety

The 2018 E-Class is one of the safest vehicles on the road.

Now that some crash-test data has become available, we can give the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class a safety score.

It’s good news. The E-Class merits a 10 for safety, with a note that coupes and cabriolets have not been tested yet. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Every E-Class comes with Bluetooth and a rearview camera, newly standard this year.

All models have forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, as well as LED headlights and a vehicle alert that sounds when the driver doesn’t pay attention. In an impact, the E-Class can inflate seat bolsters to move the passengers up to 3 inches out of harm’s way.

With the available Drive Pilot system, the E-Class reaches into Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. It can change lanes automatically when the lane is clear and the driver signals for two seconds. It can follow, accelerate, and stop behind other cars in traffic at speed as high as 130 mph. It can follow lanes at speeds up to 81 mph even when the lanes aren’t well marked. The system can squeeze the brakes when oncoming traffic veers into the E-Class’ lane, and it can add force to the steering when the driver makes an evasive maneuver.

The bundle that includes that advanced technology is priced at more than $10,000, but rear-seat side airbags are available for a tenth of that. Surround-view cameras, a head-up display, and active headlights are options.

In crash tests, the NHTSA gives the E-Class sedan five stars overall, with five stars in each of its tests. The IIHS says the E-Class is a Top Safety Pick+. In both cases, only the sedan has been tested, but it’s by far the volume seller in the lineup.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Features

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class suits up with a full roster of luxury and technology features, and leads with active-safety add-ons.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sports a base price of less than $54,000. Opt into the fabulously well-equipped AMG E63 S wagon, and you’ll start at something more like $108,000.

We approve heartily of what the E-Class has to offer, save for its still-balky COMAND infotainment system. Fix that and it’s a 10 here. As it stands, it’s a 9 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Even in base trim, the E-Class has excellent standard and available features, a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving package, and huge opportunity for customization with wood, leather, and metal trim.

Trim by trim, the stock E300 sedan comes with rear- or all-wheel drive and a turbo-4 engine. The E400 sedan and wagon offer a turbo-6, 9-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive. Coupes and Cabriolets come in E400 trim, but offer rear-drive models. A higher-rated twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive slot into the E43 sedan, while the E63 sedan and wagon bristle with power from a twin-turbo V-8 and AWD.

Base equipment on the E300 sedan, if you ever encounter such a beast, would include MB-Tex synthetic leather upholstery, Bluetooth with audio streaming, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, power front seats, power windows/locks/mirrors, automatic climate control, remote start, navigation, and ambient lighting.

Options include leather seats, wireless phone charging, Burmester audio, massaging seats, automatic park assist, rear-seatbelt and rear-side airbags, and a safety bundle that includes Drive Pilot and a surround-view camera system. An air suspension and all-wheel drive also are available.

The E300 also can be fitted with beefy brakes, 18-inch AMG wheels, and a sport suspension, a panoramic roof, 19- and 20-inch wheels, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive headlights, satellite radio, and a set of 12.3-inch digital displays that replace conventional gauges. E400 sedans and wagons get standard all-wheel drive and a rear air suspension. Wagons have a split-fold rear seat, fold-away third-row seats, and a power tailgate.

E400 coupes have standard keyless ignition, leather upholstery, memory front seats, a panoramic roof, and a rearview camera. Cabriolets add standard rear-seat side airbags and a power folding cloth top, as well as warm-air vents at neck level. Major options on both include an air suspension, a head-up display

E43 sedans have 19-inch wheels, AMG exterior trim, a sport steering wheel, a stitched dash, and AMG gauges. Mobile apps that record track performance, a panoramic roof, and carbon-fiber trim are among the options.

E63 sedans and wagons get Nappa leather, heated and cooled front seats, and a power trunk closer (on sedans). The E63 offers carbon-ceramic brakes and a sport exhaust system.

The E-Class gets kudos for including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in its standard equipment. Its streamlined interface is a welcome change from the rolling, clicking, writing and swiping required to enter a destination in the car's resident COMAND navigation system—it often didn't have new points of interest in its database during our test drive. COMAND is on its way out, to be replaced by a new MBUX infotainment system in the near future. Until then, take some time to learn its quirks, and if you’re like us, plan on using Apple and Android shortcuts for most entertainment and phone functions.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Fuel Economy

The 2018 E-Class doesn’t offer hybrid or diesel, but its gas mileage ratings are within reason.

Fuel economy in the 2018 Mercedes E-Class varies by body style, but not so widely. At least, not until you step into the AMG versions.

It’s a 6 on our green scale, since we bias toward the most popular sedans with turbo-4 and turbo-6 engines. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With no plug-in hybrid or turbodiesel models in the U.S. lineup, the 2018 E-Class posts its best numbers as an E300 sedan. With rear-wheel drive, it’s rated at 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined. With all-wheel drive, the ratings drop to 21/29/24 mpg.

E400 sedans, with standard all-wheel drive, earn EPA ratings of 20/27/23 mpg, while wagons with all-wheel drive check in at 19/25/21 mpg. That’s the same score as the AMG E43 sedan.

Step into the hugely powerful E63 sedan and the EPA scolds you, with 15/22/18-mpg ratings. Wagons fare a bit better, at 16/22/18 mpg.

The new-for-2018 E400 Coupe and Cabriolet post competitive ratings. Coupes with either rear- or all-wheel drive get EPA ratings of 20/26/22 mpg, same as the E400 Cabriolet with rear-wheel drive. Add all-wheel drive to the convertible, and fuel economy dips to 20/25/22 mpg.

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$52,950
MSRP based on E 300 RWD Sedan
 
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8.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 10
Features 9
Fuel Economy 6
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